Haiti’s Poor Eats Mud to Avoid Starvation


Haiti is one of the places that suffer from the impact of the global price hike. These price hikes affect the poor far more than anybody else. As a result of the situation, Haiti’s poor have no other choice but to turn to mud to solve their food problem. They cannot afford even the smallest serving of rice every day and this is all because of the food price hike. This is Charlene Dumas’s situation, together with everyone else who cannot afford a proper meal. They have no other choice but to eat some mud cookies made from yellow dirt which is found in the country’s central plateau.

These mud cookies are the traditional Tahitian remedy for hunger. Children, as well as pregnant women, have turned to mud as it is rich in calcium and serves as an antacid. But for Charlene Dumas and Woodson, her 1-month-old baby, dirt made into cookies with vegetable shortening and salt are not just for calcium and antacid, but it is their usual consumption. Though the cookies can give her stomach pains, it’s the regular meal for them, together with Charlene’s two jobless parents and five other siblings. She lives in a house with two rooms in an ocean slum called Cite Soleil. If they don’t have anything else to be cooked or eaten, then they’d have to eat the cookies three times a day.

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The dirt used for making these cookies is transported by truck to the La Saline market straight from Hinche’s central town. The merchants transport them to sell to women who would then make the dirt into the mud cookies. They make the cookies in a shantytown called Fort Dimanche.

The cookies are made by straining clumps and rocks from buckets of dirt and water by using a sheet. After adding in the salt and shortening, the mixture is formed into the mud cookies and left to dry under the sun. Then the cookies are done and sold into the streets or in market places. A mother of seven children, Marie Noel, also sells the cookies as well as lets her family eats them. This is her way of providing for them, one way or another.


Eating dirt/mud cookies has different health effects per person. A professor for immunology at Colorado State University, Gerald N. Callahan said that fetuses in the womb can have their immunity strengthened against some types of diseases. He also studied dirt-eating, which is scientifically dubbed as “Geophagy.”

Doctors in Haiti say there is a great risk for malnutrition for people consuming and relying on these mud cookies. The second someone eats the cookie, it can suck all the moisture from the mouth. Even though it is smooth, it does not taste good and that taste linger for hours. Haiti’s health ministry executive director Dr. Gabriel Thimothee firmly discourages eating these mud/dirt cookies.

Eating these dirt/mud cookies is a way of survival for Haiti’s poor. Necessities for food consumption have their prices spiked up as an effect of the global price hike. With global food prices spiking up to the roof, it is way more serious in the Caribbean since they would rely on imported goods that have marked up to 40 percent. The price hike is the result of oil prices shooting up. Oil is used for irrigation, fertilizer, and transportation. The worldwide need for biofuels is also making the situation worst and basic needs such as wheat and corn have also spiked up.

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The U.N. Food and Agriculture Agency calls for states of emergency in some Caribbean countries and Haiti, based on the situation together with that of the 2007 hurricane season’s result of crop damage and floods and the global price hikes. In December, Caribbean leaders gathered together for an emergency summit to talk about establishing regional farms as an answer to independence from food imports. Adjusting food taxes was also included in the agenda.

The recent natural disasters in Haiti were the earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Michael in 2016 which damaged thousands of homes and destroyed 90% of the houses. Then a cholera outbreak also added up more fuel to the fire which makes it even more difficult for Haiti to recover from these problems and possibly get back on track.


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